The first skyscraper in Kansas City was built in 1888; the New York Life Building, which stood 12 stories tall, led to a boom in skyscraper construction between 1920 and 1940. These early 20th-century buildings include the Power and Light Building, Oak Tower, City Hall, Fidelity National Bank and the Jackson County Court House. Most of them remain today, though many are being renovated into office spaces and loft-style residences. Oak Tower, for example, was originally built using terra cotta and had gothic architecture, but its gargoyles were covered up in a renovation project during the 1970s.

During the 1970s and 1980s, a slew of high-rises began to fill downtown Kansas City, with the Hyatt Regency at Crown Center standing 45-stories tall. The city also embraced the postmodern trend that was sweeping the country by building the Town Pavilion in 1986 and One Kansas City Place in 1988 (the latter being a taller glass version of the city hall, and taller than even the Gateway Arch in St. Louis).

In the last few years, downtown Kansas City has come back into vogue as the city poured increased efforts and funding into revitalizing this area. The Power and Light District is being redeveloped as an entertainment center, and a new sports arena, the Sprint Center, will open in 2007.